In 2015, the Pioche Town Board (PTB) requested feasibility studies from the Lincoln County Power District No. 1 (LCPD) and the Lincoln County Water District (LCWD) to determine whether or not the Town should transfer ownership of the Town’s utilities to these entities. The Town’s Utility Manager reports, “no work was done (for over two years) during the study process.”
At the last PTB meeting prior to their “public hearings,” a “too-long-standing” PTB MEMBER, GLEN ZELCH STATED HE “WANTS TO LIMIT ACCESS TO THE WRITTEN DOCUMENTS,” AND THE CHAIRMAN
PHYLLIS ROBISTOW SAID, “WE DON’T WANT TO GIVE THEM (PIOCHE RESIDENTS) TOO MUCH INFORMATION, IT WILL ONLY CONFUSE THEM.” The PTB then set out, with the cooperation of PPU staff, to limit access to pertinent documents in order to prevent public review of same. The PPU Office Manager went so far as to file for a protective order against me in an effort to keep me from the PPU Office and the Town Board Meetings – she was not successful in this endeavor.
Both the LCPD and the LCWD submitted their financial bona fides in their studies. Each entity was able to prove their fiscal fitness to take over the Town’s utilities. The PTB intentionally withheld critical documents and information from the general public during their recent “survey.”
Even though it was assumed PUBLIC HEARINGS WOULD BE HELD AND THE VOTE WOULD OCCUR AS PART OF A BALLOT INITIATIVE, D.A. KATCHKE APPEARED AT THE FINAL “PUBLIC HEARING” AND ADVISED THE ASSEMBLY, “THIS IS MORE OF A SURVEY THAN A VOTE AND THERE ARE NO LAWS OVER HOW A SURVEY SHOULD BE CONDUCTED.” I fully understand the PTB’s reluctance to offer this drivel as a “ballot initiative,” as it would require a full disclosure of their financial status and the VERY REAL results of transfer of ownership of the Utilities.
At no time during the mock “public hearings” held in June and July of 2017, did the PTB disclose their 2017-2018 budgeted Salaries/Wages of $257,990 and Employee Benefits of $93,980, totaling $351,970 for 6.11 FTE employees. The PTB did not disclose their budgeted Services & Supplies of $710,041 (includes payments to LCPD for Town’s power). These costs total $1,062,011. For the same period, the Town’s operating and non-operating revenues were budgeted at $921,150.
At no time did the PTB disclose the PPU operating at an AVERAGE MONTHLY LOSS OF $7,381 FOR EACH AND EVERY MONTH FOR 2012 THROUGH 2016. The rate increases the PTB decided upon following their “public hearing” charade will not even begin to cover these losses, much less allow for “upgrades.”
At no time did the PTB disclose the reality that if the residents did not approve transferring ownership of the electric to LCPD, it would be necessary to take on ANOTHER 40 YEAR BOND to perform what they called “upgrades” to the electric system and the LCPD referred to as our “seriously deteriorated” system. This 40-year $1.5M bond would require an annual payment of $81,300 until the year 2058. The Town’s existing Water bond for $350,000 was issued in 1980, comes due on 07-31-2020 and requires an annual payment of $20,748; the Town’s Sewer bond for $210,000 was issued in 2008, comes due on 04-17-2048 and requires an annual payment of $11,168.
In effect, the PTB arbitrarily decided to take on another Revenue Bond, retain the PPU Manager and continue to pay him for “electric work” he has never performed to the tune of nearly $100,000 a year.
The PPU Manager signed a “Journeyman/Lineman” contract with the PTB on 11-07-01 and was not required to fulfill this obligation, even though the Town paid for the classes and training. The “upgrades” are to be executed by outside contractors and will require the payment of prevailing wages. WHAT WILL WE NEED THE PPU MANAGER FOR???
The PTB did not clearly state on their “options” document the fact that if the Town did transfer the Electric System to LCPD, the residents would be assessed rate increases over Water and Sewer in the amount of $22 per month DRIVEN BY PERSONNEL COSTS.
The PTB stated on their “options” document the fact that if the Town kept the Electric System, they would be required to hire a Journeyman/Lineman. Dave Luttrell, General Manager of LCPD, advised the PTB that “anything over 600 volts should have a Lineman.” Instead, the PTB allowed the PPU Manager to determine (with absolutely no training or experience in electric) the Town did not need a Journeyman/Lineman, just a part-time Utility Worker and, by the way, we are going to combine this position with an existing parks/cemetery position; thus creating YET ANOTHER FULL-TIME POSITION WITH BENEFITS.
The Town’s Water Rights were a hot-button topic at the “hearings.” The LCWD submitted (3) separate documents. In the beginning, the LCWD stated they “would not be willing to buy the Town’s Water Rights;” these were documented in their first draft. Sometime between the time the PTB sent Phyllis Robistow and Glen Zelch to work with LCWD on this study, the LCWD was allowed to “acquire” the Water Rights in the event of a transfer of ownership. For the record, the PTB does not appoint residents to their committees, as that would require compliance with NV’s Open Meeting Laws.
The Lincoln County Commission retains fiscal authority over the Town of Pioche, but has turned deaf ears to my complaints regarding the Town’s dire financial state. It is my opinion this is a grave mistake on their part, as their failure to act will have a long-term impact on all residents of Lincoln County as the
Town of Pioche continues to dig itself deeper and deeper in debt under the “supervision” of the PTB.